East Lyme, Stonington win in ECC semis, set up a title game rematch in girls' lacrosse
Stonington — The last time Stonington played Woodstock Academy in girls' lacrosse — a Stonington loss on May 8 — Emma Sabbadini felt that the Bears' attackers, in a hurry to score, had tunnel vision of sorts.
"I think this time we knew we needed to see more cutters, see the open girl," said Sabbadini, a Stonington junior. "Take the drive and then dump it to the girl down low."
Sabbadini must be a pretty good cutter.
She led Stonington with six goals Tuesday, including the team's first four, as the Bears edged Woodstock 9-7 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament semifinals, avenging their previous loss to the Centaurs.
Woodstock won the first meeting 10-5, Stonington's only loss in a season-ending 10-game stretch, forcing a three-way tie for the ECC Division II title between Stonington, Woodstock and Bacon Academy.
The third-seeded Bears will meet No. 1 East Lyme in the championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday at East Lyme High School. East Lyme defeated No. 4 Bacon 12-6 in the day's other semifinal and earned the right to vie for its 12th straight ECC tournament title in what will be a rematch of last year's game against Stonington.
East Lyme claimed last year's championship with a 16-5 victory over Stonington.
"Every single day a new leader steps up. It's definitely always a team effort," Sabbadini said, asked of her successful approach Tuesday.
"We practiced that quite a bit the last week, cutting and making passes over the middle," Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros said. "... Woodstock doesn't make mistakes. We have a little more experience ... if we don't make the mistakes. They had the ball, they controlled the clock; they were driving hard to the net."
Stonington (13-4) trailed 3-2 at halftime and 4-2 when Madison Brennan scored to open the second half for Woodstock. About three minutes later, however, Sabbadini scored on a free position to begin a string of seven straight goals for the Bears, pulling them within 4-3.
When Sabbadini scored to make it 4-4 with 16 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, Woodstock called a timeout, but it wasn't enough to slow the Bears. Olivia Feliciano scored a minute later to give Stonington the 5-4 lead and Sabbadini came through for her fifth goal of the game just 11 seconds after that.
Only 26 seconds then elapsed before Hannah Lamb made it 7-4 on an assist from Hannah Pratt. Sabbadini made it 8-4 and Kate Johnson made it 9-4, finding an opening in the midst of what started out to be a more deliberate Stonington possession.
Woodstock didn't score again until there was 6:19 remaining, but did reel off three straight goals to end the game.
"We were winning draws all day, Lexi (Woviotis) was winning them all day," Medeiros said. "We were getting lucky and then the momentum ... we caught hold of it. We have the ability to score quick. That seven-goal run for us set them back mentally."
East Lyme, meanwhile, led 1-0 for nearly 11 minutes to start the game after getting its initial goal from Kristin Healy. That's something coach Phil Schneider would later use as an example of what has been somewhat of a scoring disorder for the Vikings (11-6) this season, despite being known perennially as the ECC's giants.
"It hasn't clicked as well as we need it to," Schneider said. "We're going to grind it out, play good defense, play good in the midfield. We'll take a one-goal win Thursday."
Karlie Rowe finished with three goals and two assists for East Lyme. Kristin Healy, a sophomore, had three goals and her sister, Caroline Healy, had two goals and three assists. Olivia Facchini also had two goals and an assist.
East Lyme led 5-0 on a goal by Caroline Healy with 5:52 to go in the first half and it was 7-1 at halftime. The teams played more evenly in the second half, with Bacon carving the deficit to 10-6 with 5:23 remaining, before East Lyme scored twice in the last minute and a half for the final margin.
"We played well in the first half. We struggled offensively for a long part of the game," Schneider said. "Most of the season we've been like we were tonight, 10-12 (goals) ... making good decisions with the ball.
"The conference is better, too. Woodstock's a good team, Bacon, the whole conference was a lot better. We can't take any of our opponents for granted. They all want to beat us. We know we're going to get a team's best effort. Stonington played well against us during the regular season (14-9 loss April 14). We'll take a one-goal win."
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